artnet Asks: Artist Peter Anton and His Sugary Nightmare

His current solo show at UNIX Gallery is a dizzying examination of sweet addiction.

Peter Anton, Sugar Madness - Pink Confetti Cake (2017). Courtesy of UNIX Gallery.

“Sugar raises the dopamine levels in the ‘rewards center’ of our brains,” says artist Peter Anton. “As with many blissful activities, there is a fine line between pleasure and destruction.” His current solo show, which opened on April 27 at UNIX Gallery in New York, explores the destructive potential of food on human life—to the extreme. Macaroons explode into colorful dust, gigantic cherry pie is smeared across the canvas, and onlookers are helplessly strapped in like mental patients before the chaos.

Here, Anton explains his inspiration and unique food-based. “SUGATARIUM” is on view through Saturday, June 17.

Can you tell us about your current solo exhibition “SUGATARIUM” at UNIX Gallery?
In this exhibition, I explore the uncontrollable and insanely addictive hold sugar has on us. In these troubled and unsettled times, nothing seems to make sense. I want to heighten the delirium by transforming the space of UNIX Gallery into a “SUGATARIUM.”

You depict sugary treats as “smashed, mushed, splattered, broken and thrown throughout the space,” as described in the show’s press release. Why such a violent interpretation of sugar?
I want to depict what a powerful effect that sugar has on us: The way I created the works for this exhibition shows drama, strong energy, and movement. The treats are presented in an almost violent way which shows the fine line between passion and destruction.

Peter Anton, Sugar Madness – Cherry Pie (2017). Courtesy of UNIX Gallery.

Your exhibition transforms the gallery space into an asylum. Can you tell us about the idea behind that, and what inspired you?
I was thinking about how obsessed we are with sweets and the important part they play in our lives, and how we turn to them for comfort and how we use them for rewarding ourselves. I think it’s amazing how the wonderful colors and flavors and textures of sugary treats can intoxicate us and drive us wild to the point of over indulgence. Why do we now need to eat something sweet everyday or after every meal? Why are we eating more sugar and why are the portions getting larger? Where is all this heading?

I placed my works in an asylum complete with institution beds, some equipped with restraints, because I wanted to dramatize our crazy desire for sugar. I want the visitors to experience the feel of an insane asylum and to lay in the beds and become part of it all and to think, “Can I be getting out of control? Will I need to be admitted to the ‘SUGATARUIM’ at some point?”

Your past exhibitions, such as “Sugar & Gomorrah,” have been interactive. What kind of experience do you hope to give to your viewers with “SUGATARIUM”?
I want them to be transported to a slightly disturbing and surreal place, where they will experience conflicting emotions. It will be interesting to see how people will react to seeing sweets they know and love being smashed and placed in the “asylum” environment.  I hope they leave thinking about their own relationship with sugar, and that it was a unique experience.

Peter Anton, Sugar Madness – Chocolate Bunny (2017). Courtesy of UNIX Gallery.

Describe your creative process. What kinds of patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I am always working on several different sculptures at the same time—my studio is constantly in a state of organized chaos. There are pieces that I must be working on, but sometimes the feeling is not there, so I jump to another piece and work on that one for a while. I spend my day studying real foods, especially sweets. At times I must experiment with different materials so that I can achieve the exact look that I want.

My only routine each morning is that I get my cup of mint tea and put my cat, Alex, on my shoulder as I make my walk outside to the studio, which is steps from my home. We pause for a bit and watch the chipmunks, squirrels and birds. We then play a few games in the studio before I begin my work.

Do you have a favorite food?
I LOVE all foods! I love of the colors, flavors, shapes, textures, and the passions different foods cause. I even love the foods I would never eat. I can also be a real glutton at times!

Peter Anton, Sugar Madness – Strawberry Sundae (2017). Courtesy of UNIX Gallery.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Becoming an artist was a natural evolution for me. My earliest memories of childhood were sitting on my mother’s lap and drawing chickens together. I always felt the need to express myself through creating things; I would hang out in the kitchen while my mother prepared meals, and would gather up all of the uncooked food cuttings and scraps and empty containers and assemble them into sculptures.

Whom do you most admire?
The person I most admire is my mother.


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